LeRoy Krause: Celebrating the Gift of Faith: Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, Luke 15:1-8

Born on April 17, 1928, in Kansas, LeRoy Krause began his career as a Kansas farmer, working with his father, Martin, and brother, Melvin.  Later, he developed skills in woodworking and also began home remodeling.  In 1960, he and his wife, Betty, moved to Lampe and began a career in the building business.  Soon, he established Krause Construction Company and became one of the premier builders in the Table Rock Lake Area.

LeRoy was a founding member of our congregation.  He and two others first started working to form a congregation in Kimberling City in the early 1970s and, once formed, he served as our first president.   LeRoy died on February 7, 2018, suffering from the complications of Alzheimer’s.  Here is his funeral sermon.

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A coin comes with two sides.  Now if you choose to gaze on one side, the other disappears from view.  The Scriptures also give us two different perspectives; in this case, about life.  In today’s Old-Testament reading, we discover our journey on this earth is a movement from death toward life.  From our Epistle, the aged Apostle, John, reveals what is taking place now in heaven, after someone dies.  On the front of the coin is Psalm 23, before death; on the back, Revelation 7, after death.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”  Not the most heartening words to describe our lives.  The enemy, whose name is death, casts a long shadow over us.  Now, we do experience joy and celebration—marriages and births, graduations and promotions, barbecues and banquets.  Still, the overcast sky, this shroud of mortality, doesn’t disappear because we happen to celebrate or laugh.

For Leroy, this overhanging cloud intruded into his life for years, chipping away at his memories and intellect.  For our brains are subject to the corruption of sin like our hearts, lungs, and any other part of our bodies.  This slow death allowed us to prepare for Leroy’s passing, but death still does not become something pleasant.  For God never created us to suffer like this or die.

The darkened gloom creeps over us all, brought on by our doing when we chose our way over God’s way, bringing ruin into His creation.  The result?  A gutted and torn-apart people, cut off from those we love.  The hope of enjoying another day together wisps away and evaporates.  An emptiness settles inside us, which we learn to handle because we must.  A bit of the hollowness always remains, as we are forced to trudge on and deal with the sadness.

In our dark journey, however, another walks with us.  For the incarnate Christ walked the same path before us, who is the faithful Shepherd standing beside us today.  In our grief, He is here to give us guidance and direction.

The Shepherd whom David confessed as His Lord left the splendor of heaven.  To this sin-infected earth, He descended, taking our human form and becoming one of us, though without sin.  The life He lived displayed merciful love and care for all.

All Jesus did led to His execution, a sinless death to benefit the likes of you and me.  Nailed to the wood, the divine, sacrificial Lamb became sin for us, where the Father laid on His Son the iniquity of all humanity.  With His sacrifice accepted, Jesus rose to life.  By this, He took away what we earned for ourselves to bring us heaven’s glory.

A former shepherd boy turns to this saving Lord as his ever-present Shepherd, who brings him to lie down in green pastures.  To times of rest—physical, emotional, and spiritual—He guides David to those quiet waters.

The smooth flow of a meandering river can calm jangled nerves and soothe a tormented and troubled heart.  Those refreshing waters remind us of the life-giving, baptismal waters poured over us and Leroy, which connect us to God, giving us peace with Him and hope for eternity.

To begin each Church service, we start with the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, making the sign of the cross.  Why?  To recall our spiritual birth through Baptism, of Christ raising you into new and everlasting life.  In the words of Scripture, “All who are baptized into Christ’s death are also baptized into His resurrection.”

The psalm continues, “He restores my soul.”  In life, everyone feels alienated at one time or another, from God and others.  Did you not feel estranged from Leroy as Alzheimer’s continued to steal him from you?  Of course, God understands this, which is why He calls you to faith, not feelings.  For faith trusts something to be true despite what your emotions may tell you.  In those times, the Lord promises to restore and renew us, like He also worked through the water and Word of Baptism to bring us our birth from above.  This, indeed, He did for Leroy!

“In paths of righteousness” our Lord leads us.  The powers of this present darkness strive to lead us astray—as does our sinfulness.  So, Jesus steps into the breach and pledges to be with us.  Where?  In the preached word.  For faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).  In His Supper, where He says He delivers to us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).  How blessed this is because you don’t need to guess where Jesus comes to you for life and salvation—He tells you!

Let’s now move from our death-filled ravine to the mountaintop, where people are living with the eternal God.  A panorama opens before us, bedazzling our eyes.  An immense number is before Jesus, too substantial to count, from every tribe and nation, people and language.

Tell me, who are these people?  None other than those who are coming out of much suffering.  Don’t miss the present tense “coming.”  So, John is watching people who died moments before entering heaven, leaving the life here, called affliction or tribulation.  In David’s words, a dark abyss with death overshadowing us.  In John’s imagery, a joyful glory comes after death.

Like them, Leroy’s fights, burdens, and battles are over, including the stresses and strains of our dark valley.  In the throne room of the Almighty, he now stands with the massive multitude.  Still, what permits him to be in the unveiled presence of a pure and righteous God?

Only those made clean and pure by the Lamb’s blood may enter heaven (Revelation 7:14).  Ah, those cleansing waters of Baptism, which applies the purifying power of our Savior’s sacred blood.

Another Apostle, Peter, divulges how God uses water to redeem us.  Like the flood waters saved Noah and his family, so also does “baptism now save you.”  How?  “Not by removing dirt from the body, but as the appeal of a clear conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).  A clean conscience with God only comes in one of two ways.  Either, you never did anything wrong, or God forgives you for your failings.

Washed and forgiven, Leroy now celebrates with the white-robed of heaven.  For he didn’t toss aside his God-given faith but continued to believe in his Savior.  “For by grace you are saved through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it [faith] is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Here’s what’s so beautiful about realizing faith to be a gift given by God.  With such trust being gifted to you and not self-generated, Alzheimer’s cannot rob this from someone.  So, if Leroy forgot who Jesus is, Jesus still remembered him.  Such is the character of the Spirit’s gift.  Do you now understand why Leroy is praising the Lord in paradise?  Though dying produces many tears, Jesus will wipe them all away with His love.  Now freed from all pain and distress, Leroy joins with them in their celestial song.

By God’s grace, we also can join them in singing, destined to be with the saints dressed in purest white.  For Jesus, by being the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, saves us.  In the presence of His Father, our sin-forgiving Lord advocates for us as our mediator, while He prepares a place for us among the many gathered above.

Today, Leroy is free from all sin, but we are here still struggling.  So, what are we to do with Leroy no longer before our eyes?  Consider Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, but don’t miss what Jesus said after He finished the story.  “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need to repent.”  With our fallen flesh still with us, we never outgrow repentance—but when we turn back toward God, “heaven” is rejoicing!

So, where is Leroy?  With God in glory.  What do those heavenly saints do when you turn away from your sin?  Well, if you believe Jesus, they rejoice.  So, Leroy celebrates every time you recognize your sinfulness and, in response, come home to God!

What happens when you come to Church every Sunday and join in confession?  To confess your sins is repenting, which is denouncing your misdeeds and turning away from them.  In Holy-Spirited repentance, you delight Leroy in eternity.  In other words, a joy on top of joy comes to him.  Yes, our actions can bring happiness to the saints above—if you don’t think so, you are arguing against Jesus and His words.

So, Leroy’s not sitting on a cloud, oblivious.  The book of Hebrews corrects us of such notions.  For, as Hebrew 12:1 states, he is now part of “a vast cloud of eyewitnesses surrounding us.”  These souls, including Leroy, can surround us in such a way because they are without physical form and matter.  Like us, they are still living in faith awaiting what they do not yet experience—pure, perfect, and resurrected bodies.

What do they witness?  The race of faith we are running.  For after Scripture tells us who is all around us, we fathom how this impacts us.  Throw off whatever may hinder you and the sin entangling you.  With endurance, run this race set before you, keeping your eyes on Jesus, who begins and completes your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Though now bereft of breath, Leroy isn’t removed from you forever.  By trusting in Jesus, you will meet him again.  Until heaven, we live relying on our Lord, as Leroy encourages us to keep our eyes on Christ, who both initiates and finishes our faith.

So, keep your eyes on what matters, and where your Lord comes to give you salvation.  By remaining in and with Jesus, not only will you receive the life He grants you, but you also bring joy to Leroy.  Amen.

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